Equity & Diversity

Immigration Proposals Could Aid School Hiring Efforts

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 07, 2006 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Educators have several reasons to follow the volatile debate over immigration in Congress—a debate that ground to a halt this week before lawmakers’ spring recess.

In the long term, some of the plans would allow more teachers from other countries to work in schools, or change the enforcement of rules governing other school-related jobs. More immediately, efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants promised to intensify rallies planned for April 10 across the country.

Most students who had skipped school over the previous two weeks to protest an immigration bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives were back in class this week. The students had rallied against the measure, which would make it a crime to be in the country without legal sanction or to help an illegal immigrant. (“Students Sound Off on Immigration,” April 5, 2006.)

Pro-immigrant groups scheduled this week’s protests in more than 65 cities to oppose the House bill and put pressure on Congress to pass legislation that the groups deem more acceptable.

Late this week, a bipartisan group of senators had forged a compromise on dealing with illegal immigration. But by April 7, they lacked enough votes to close debate on the measure, a signal that the legislation lacked enough support to pass the full Senate.

“At this point, everything is up in the air,” said Erica Chabot, the deputy press secretary for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. “We’re back at square one.”

The bipartisan compromise had offered a middle-of-the-road approach to illegal immigration between a restrictive House bill and a more permissive Senate bill.

Under the bipartisan plan:

• Those who have lived in this country for at least five years would be put on a path toward citizenship if they are continuously employed, pay fines and back taxes, and learn English.

• Those undocumented people who have been in the country for two to five years would have to leave and then could immediately re-enter as temporary workers, and wouldn’t be guaranteed citizenship.

• Lastly, anyone who has been in the country for less than two years would have to leave.

The amendment would not alter the Judiciary Commitee bill’s inclusion of a provision to make it easier for school districts to hire teachers from foreign countries—a development that could have one of the most direct effects on schools of all the immigration measures being debated.

That would raise the cap for the number of H1B visas in fiscal 2007 to 115,000. That’s up from the current maximum of 65,000 for such visas, which go to skilled workers. It would also establish a cap that would change with the demand for skilled foreign-born workers: If the cap were reached in any year, the maximum number of H1B visas permitted for the following year would rise by 20 percent.

“That’s excellent news for us,” said Deborah Ignagni, the director of recruitment for certified employees for the 720,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District. The district has 154 teachers with H1B visas this school year teaching mathematics, science, and special education—chronic shortage areas for Los Angeles and other districts.

An H1B visa authorizes teachers and other skilled workers to work in the United States for three years. The employees can renew the visas one time for an additional three years, and many eventually obtain green cards, which enable them to work in the country indefinitely.

Undocumented Workers

For the most part, though, experts on school employment say that the immigration bills proposed in the House and Senate would have little effect on the hiring practices of schools.

Frank D. Bean, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, said it’s unlikely undocumented immigrants are working for schools as teachers because they would have to prove teacher certification in the United States and show other documents.

But he said undocumented immigrants are possibly working for schools indirectly. They might be hired by construction companies or their subcontractors to build schools, or by companies that provide janitorial or food services, he said.

A study released last month by the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center estimates that undocumented workers are concentrated in jobs in private households, food manufacturing, farming, furniture manufacturing, construction, textile manufacturing, food services, administration and support services, hotels, and other types of manufacturing jobs.

A 1986 immigration law requires employers to file a form with the U.S. government saying they looked at the papers of employees who are immigrants, according to Mr. Bean. “They don’t have to check for validity,” he added. He and others say penalties for hiring unauthorized immigrants are not enforced.

That could change if any of the proposals in Congress becomes law.

The House and the Senate Judiciary Committee bills seek stricter rules for employers to check documents of employees. They also contain stronger penalties against employers who hire undocumented immigrants, said Michele Waslin, the director of immigration-policy research for the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group in Washington.

While undocumented workers may be helping to build schools, districts typically wouldn’t be held liable for hiring them, according to Julie K. Underwood, the dean of the education school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a specialist in school law. “You write it into the contract to make sure the company is responsible and monitors the employment status of people they hire,” she said.

Parent Involement

Representatives from the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, said this week they support the Senate Judiciary Committee bill because it provides comprehensive immigration reform, rather than the House bill and a separate bill that has been introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., both of which focus on enforcement.

They applauded the inclusion in the Senate Judiciary Committee bill of a provision that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youths who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or participate in military service for at least two years.

They also endorsed the part of the Senate Judiciary Committee bill that offers a way for undocumented workers to become legal.

Ms. Underwood noted that K-12 public schools are obligated under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in Plyler v. Doe, to provide an education to children regardless of their immigration status. “From the school’s perspective of the primary mission of educating the kids, the immigration status of the parent is secondary,” she said.

Peter Zamora, a legislative lawyer for MALDEF, added that legalization for children’s parents could improve parent involvement in schools. “There’s a relationship between government and individuals in this community that is not based on trust,” he said. “Bring this population out of the shadows; have them participate in all facets of American society, including school.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Immigration Proposals Could Aid School Hiring Efforts

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Censoring Race and Racism Lessons Defies Best Practice and May Be Unlawful, Report Argues
A teachers' union and a lawyers' alliance marshal legal and pedagogical evidence for racially inclusive and culturally responsive teaching.
7 min read
Sabin Middle School student Marvionna J., center, works with classmates Marcus Q. and Aaron A. to identify evidence from the indentured servant letter.
Middle school student Marvionna J., center, works with classmates Marcus Q. and Aaron A. to identify evidence from an indentured servant letter in a 2018 social studies class at Sabin Middle School in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Nathan W. Armes for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion Educators Will Teach 'Truth About Oppression' Despite CRT Attacks
Although some educators fear for their jobs, they say not teaching what students need to know would be a disservice.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity How Carefully Tailored PD Can Help Principals Become Equity Leaders
A partnership involving several districts suggests smart professional development can help principals improve equitable practices.
5 min read
Image of a staff meeting.
E+
Equity & Diversity What One State's Transgender Student Policy Could Mean for Students
Experts fear Virginia's model policy could endanger the mental health and safety of trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming students.
6 min read
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants districts to adopt a model policy that restricts how schools and teachers deal with transgender students.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks with reporters after touring a Loudoun County elections facility at the County Office of Elections, in Leesburg, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Youngkin inspected ballot scanning machines undergoing logic and accuracy testing.
Cliff Owen/AP